Exclusive Western Canada Travel Guide

Published in the December 2011 Issue White Out & Wide Open—The Blog

Blue River, BC. Photo by Thunderstruck Films www.bigskyx.comIt's been a couple of seasons since we paid much attention-at least in any kind of detail-to the great snowmobile riding in western Canada.

It's time.

There are so many great choices of where to ride in western Canada it's almost silly-and difficult-to really do justice to every single riding spot. There are a bunch.

So, consider our exclusive western Canada guide as more of a highlight reel of what's available in Alberta, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory.

Comprehensive might be a bit of a stretch to describe our snowmobiling guide, but we think we've hit most of the riding areas for western Canada. We do think we're giving you a pretty good place to start.

Riding in western Canada is as diverse as anywhere on earth. Moving from east to west, you have the prairies of Alberta before you reach this wall of mountains called the Canadian Rockies, which forms the provincial border between Alberta and British Columbia. From there to the Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is range after range of mountains. Up north in the territories, you can ride next to the Arctic Ocean while in the Northwest Territories as well as near massive rivers and in some mountains. Once you get to the Yukon, you have even more mountains and glaciated valleys. You won't get bored in any province or territory.

The snows come early in the season and stay late in the spring, providing sledders south of the border some early season riding opportunities while they wait for the snow to fall closer to home. That's just one more advantage-out of many-of the riding in western Canada. We say one of many because there are so many options. Your biggest challenge might be simply choosing where to ride.

Those are the kinds of challenges we like.

Crowsnest Pass. Photo courtesy Travel AlbertaAlberta

Alberta offers some of the greatest variety of riding in Canada-from the prairie to the mountains.

The majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains, which form just about half of Alberta's western border, gradually give way to the vast rolling prairie that makes up the land mass from the Rockies to the province's border with Saskatchewan.

In between is some excellent snowmobiling, from the top of the province to the bottom and from the east to the west.

You can choose from nearly 4,000 miles of groomed trails as well as some of the best mountain riding anywhere. The province has a well-maintained and diverse system of trails that covers just about every part of the province. And that means choosing high elevation trails, such as those near Crowsnest Pass and along the Rockies, or hitting the trails among rolling hills on the prairie, as far north as High Level. And if you don't need a groomed path and have a sense of adventure, there is plenty of wide-open country to explore.

If you're leaning toward some powder and high elevation riding then head up to the Canadian Rockies. One of the more popular mountain riding areas is Crowsnest Pass, which, ironically enough, also has one of the province's biggest trail systems. Riding begins at about 3,799 feet and goes up from there, to between 7,499 and 7,998 feet. Snows are deepest in the bowls that dot the Canadian Rockies. Storms pound the Canadian Rockies to the tune of between 118-236 inches every winter.

There are other mountain areas worth exploring, especially between Crowsnest and Banff National Park in Kananaskis Country. Popular riding areas here include McLean Creek, Cataract Creek and Sibbald Flats. For more information on Kananaskis Country, log on to www.tpr.alberta.ca/parks/kananaskis/Winter_Activities.asp.

Still another great mountain riding area is Kakwa Wildland Park, located on the border of Alberta and British Columbia, about a 2-hour drive south and west of Grande Prairie. The powder is deep and the riding wide open.

With just a few exceptions, access to the mountains and/or prairie riding areas is usually no more than a few hours of drive time, regardless of where you are.

Pumpkin Park, Smoky Lake AB. Photo courtesy Travel AlbertaGuide

Travel Alberta-www.travelalberta.com
Alberta Snowmobile Association-www.altasnowmobile.ab.ca
Groomed Trails-3,914 miles
Highest Point-Mount Columbia (12,293 ft)
Greatest Average Annual Snowfall-Waterton Village 189.6 in.
Average Yearly Snowfall For The Entire Province Of Alberta-55 in.

Alberta Destinations

Location Elevation Feet Snowfall Inches Groomed Trails Mi Full-Service Town Information
1) Alberta Beach 2,191 46 142 Alberta Beach, Edmonton Alberta Beach 780-924-3181
2) Athabasca 1,837 55 310 Athabasca Athabasca Country Tourism 780-675-2230
3) Barrhead 3,969 51 62 Barrhead Barrhead & District C of C 780-674-6100
4) Battle River Trail 2,175 32 149 Forestburg, Sedgewick Village of Forestburg 780-582-3668
5) Bonnyville 1,699 23-35 186 Bonnyville Bonnyville Chamber of Commerce 780-826-3252
6) Caroline   59 40 Caroline Village of Caroline 403-722-3781
7) Cold Lake 1,774 51 37 Cold Lake Cold Lake Information Centre 800-840-6140
8) Crowsnest Pass/Pincher Creek 3,799-7,998 196-236 745 Crowsnest Pass (Bellevue, Blairmore, Coleman) Crowsnest Pass C of C 888-562-7108
9) Drayton Valley 2,749 53 37.2 Drayton Valley Brazeau Tourism 800-633-0899
10) Edson 3,041 106-118 310 Edson Edson 780-723-4918
11) Elk Point 1,984 45 56 Elk Point Elk Point 780-724-3810
12) Fairview 2,198 64.5 31 Fairview Fairview & District C of C 780-835-5999
13) Fort McMurray 1,210 67.7 155 Fort McMurray Fort McMurray Tourism 800-565-3947
14) Fort Saskatchewan 2,034 31-41 99 Fort Saskatchewan Fort Saskatchewan C of C 780-998-4355
15) Fort Assiniboine 2,201 40 37 Barrhead Barrhead & District C of C 780-674-6100
16) Golden Triangle 2,398-3,969 36 219 Fox Creek, Whitecourt, Swan Hills Fox Creek C of C 780-622-2670, Whitecourt C of C 780-778-5363, Town of Swan Hills 780-333-4477
17) Grande Prairie 2,194 70.8 78 Grande Prairie Grande Prairie Chamber of Commerce 780-532-5340
18) Grande Cache 4,097 75.4 n/a Grande Cache Grande Cache Tourism and Interpretive Centre 888-827-3790
19) High Level 1,108-2,099 23.6-59 186 High Level High Level & District C of C 780-926-2470
20) Hinton 3,172 59 34 Hinton Hinton Chamber of Commerce 780-865-2777
21) La Crete 918 20-35 37 La Crete La Crete Chamber of Commerce 780-928-2278
22) Lac La Biche/Lakeland County 2,076 49 n/a Lac La Biche Lac La Biche Region 877-623-9696
23) Olds 3,412 48 62 Olds Olds Chamber of Commerce 403-556-7070
24) Rainbow Lake 1,899 39.3-59 168 Rainbow Lake Town of Rainbow Lake 780-956-3934
25) Rocky Mountain House 3,241 64 621 Rocky Mountain House Rocky Mountain House C of C 800-565-3793
26) St. Paul 2,122 38 68 St. Paul St. Paul Chamber of Commerce 780-645-5820
27) Two Hills 2,460 39 31 Town Two Hills Town of Two Hills 780-657-3395
28) Valleyview 2,499 59 56 Valleyview Valleyview 780-524-5150
29) Westlock 2,132 47 93 Westlock Town of Westlock 780-349-4444
30) Kakwa Wildland Park 5,905-10,498 Up to 59 ft. 31 Grande Prairie (2 hours) Kakwa Wildland Park 780-538-5350


British Columbia

British Columbia Destinations

Location Elevation Feet Snowfall Inches Groomed Trails Mi Full-Service Town Information
1) Stewart 0 to 8,000 224 none Stewart Stewart/Hyder Chamber of Commerce 888-366-5999
2) Fort St. John 1,699-2,499 73 124 Fort St. John Fort St. John & District Chamber of Commerce 250-785-6037
3) Smithers 1,640-8,500 80 24.8 Smithers Tourism Smithers 800-542-6673
4) Mackenzie 1,998-5,498 128 none Mackenzie Mackenzie Chamber of Commerce 877-622-5360
5) Chetwynd-Pine Pass 3,000-6,000 69-121 none Chetwynd Chetwynd and District Chamber of Commerce 250-788-3345
6) Kitimat/Terrace 4,593-8,858 132-166 none Terrace, Kitimat Terrace & District C of C 250-635-2063, Kitimat C of C 250-632-6294
7) Tumbler Ridge/Dawson Creek 1,597-6,499 69 298 Dawson Creek, Tumbler Ridge Tourism Dawson Creek 866-645-3022, Tumbler Ridge C of C 250-242-0015
8) Prince George 1,998-7,000 90.5 62 Prince George Tourism Prince George 800-668-7646
9) Anahim Lake/Tweedsmuir Park 2,998-4,921 46 none Williams Lake (196 mi) Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourist Association 800-663-5885
10) McBride 2.529-8,202 74 35.7 McBride McBride 866-569-3366
11) Quesnel/Wells 4,150-6,561 188 93 Wells, Quesnel Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourist Association 800-663-5885
12) Taseko Lake 4,498-10,000 44-79 none Williams Lake Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourist Association 800-663-5885
13) Williams Lake/Quesnel Lake 1,788-3,083 69-79 none Williams Lake Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce 250-392-5025
14) Valemount 2,499-7,998 45-87 66 Valemount Village of Valemount 250-566-4435
15) Clearwater 2,227-8,038 157 none Clearwater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce 250-674-2646
16) Mica Mountain 3,936-7,545 232 none 100 Mile House South Cariboo Visitor Info Centre 877-511-5353
17) 100 Mile House 3,474 62.6 none 100 Mile House South Cariboo Visitor Info Centre 877-511-5353
18) Green Lake 3,789 63-69 31 Clinton Village of Clinton 250-459-2261
19) Gold Bridge/Bralorne 3,398-9,000 Up to 46 ft. none Gold Bridge, Bralorne Bridge River Valley Chamber of Commerce 250-238-2534
20) Golden 1,499-9,000 67-188 62 Golden Golden Chamber of Commerce 800-622-4653
21) Revelstoke 1,988-7,952 Up to 59 ft. 43 Revelstoke Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce 250-837-5345
22) Mt. Washington/Comox 0-4,921 Up to 26 ft. none Comox Comox Valley Visitor Information Centre 250-334-3234
23) Tod Mountain/Tranquille Lake 3,999 - 5,997 157-196 none Kamloops Tourism Kamloops 866-372-8081
24) Sicamous 1,148-6,561 78-196 44 Sicamous Sicamous Chamber of Commerce 250-836-3313
25) Pemberton Ice Fields 2,000-8,028 359 16 Pemberton, Whistler and Squamish Pemberton & District Chamber of Commerce 604-894-6477
26) Salmon Arm 1,728-6,561 71-106 44 Salmon Arm Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce 250-832-6247
27) Hunters Range/Enderby 1,181-6,233 40-79 none Enderby Enderby Chamber of Commerce 250-838-6727
28) Whistler 2,499-8,198 161-359 none Whistler, Squamish Whistler Chamber of Commerce 604-932-5922
29) Logan Lake 3,510 39 155 Logan Lake District of Logan Lake 250-523-6225
30) Vernon 1,824-3,280 39-236 none Vernon Tourism Vernon 800-665-0795
31) Lumby 2,998-6,797 65-236 99 Lumby Lumby Chamber of Commerce 250-547-2300
32) Radium Hot Springs/Invermere 3,080 59 none Radium Hot Springs, Invermere Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce 250-342-2844
33) Merritt 1,952 39 none Merritt Tourism Merritt 250-378-0349
34) Kelowna 3,608-5,249 196-276 186 Kelowna Tourism Kelowna 800-663-4345
35) Squamish/Brohm Ridge 898-6,797 143-393 none Squamish Squamish Visitor Centre 866-333-2010
36) Coquihalla Connector 4,898-5,698 59-67 none Merritt, Kelowna Tourism Kelowna 800-663-4345
37) Cypress Provincial Park 984-2,978 244 none Vancouver www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/
38) Bacon Lake/Campbell River 2,624-5,577 Up to 10 ft. none Campbell River Campbell River Tourism 800-463-4386
39) Coquihalla Pass 3,497-6,797 590-826 none Princeton Princeton Chamber of Commerce 250-295-3103
40) Kokanee Range/West Kootenays 3,838-6,998 149 none New Denver Slocan District Chamber of Commerce 250-358-2719
41) Elk Valley/Sparwood 3,497-6,499 97-344 none Sparwood Sparwood Chamber of Commerce 877-485-8185
42) Big White/Graystokes Plateau 7,601 118-196 none Kelowna Tourism Kelowna 800-663-4345
43) Cranbrook/Kimberley 4,035-6,561 55-157 none Cranbrook, Kimberley Cranbrook C of C 800-222-6174, Kimberley C of C 866-913-3666
44) Castlegar 1,561 83-118 none Castlegar Castlegar Chamber of Commerce 250-365-6313
45) Fernie 3,497-6,998 140-275 none Fernie Fernie Chamber of Commerce 250-423-6868
46) Fort Nelson 1,253 70 none Fort Nelson Northern Rockies Regional District 250-774-2541
47) Kamloops 4,264-8,036 72-264 60 Kamloops Kamloops Visitor Centre 800-662-1994

There are a number of places that make various claims when it comes to snowmobiling: the best snow, the best scenery, the best terrain, the best trails, the best off-trail riding.

But there are very few places where the right combinations of all those characteristics snowmobilers yearn for come together to create the near-perfect riding spot.

British Columbia is one such place.

The snowmobiling in British Columbia is better than you can imagine. And it's not just one spot in the province that offers all those qualities-it's riding location after riding location.

When it comes to the white stuff, it seems like there's always snow somewhere in the province, even during the middle of the summer. There are places in BC that receive anywhere from 26-59 feet of snow. And as the storms move from west to east, the snow gets drier and fluffier and it's powder heaven.

All that snow falls on quite a variety of terrain. The mountains are rugged and provide some of the best hillclimbing you'll find anywhere. Of course, there are plenty of places riders of any skill level can enjoy. The variety of riding places is what helps set British Columbia apart. Yes, there are mountains, meadows and bowls. Yes, there are trails, forest roads and ridgelines to ride. But how many places can you ride and see the ocean? The remote town of Stewart is one such place. It's one of those places where the deep snow (49-59 feet) and reach-to-the-sky mountains work together to make it a magical place to ride.

Then there is Vancouver Island, where up to nearly 10 feet of snow falls and there is ample riding available.

Then there's the glacier riding. The Pemberton Ice Fields might be the most popular spot to ride glaciers but even those who continually ride there are amazed at the beauty and the endless snow.

There are dozens of riding areas in BC, covering nearly every corner of the province and each offering its own uniqueness. Another great attraction of BC sledding is abundance of riding spots close to the major metropolitan areas. For example, some of the best riding in BC is less than an hour away from Vancouver. The terrain is magnificent and the scenery just can't be described. You really do have to see it to believe it.

There are also lots of riding spots not close to major metropolitan areas, such as all of northern BC, say north of Smithers and Fort St. John. Northern BC also gets plenty of snow . you just have to have a plan if you're going to ride it. You need to locate services and definitely know where you're going. It is wide open country up here and you might get awful lonely. There are also a couple of snowmobile areas in the far northwest corner of BC where snowmobiling is popular, such as near Atlin. But that area is mentioned in the Yukon Territory section because access is only through the Yukon.


British Columbia-www.hellobc.com
British Columbia Snowmobile Federation-www.bcsf.org
Groomed Trails-7,456 miles
Highest Point Mount-Fairweather (15,299 ft)
Greatest Average Annual Snowfall-Revelstoke 167 in.
Average Yearly Snowfall For The Entire Province Of British Columbia-77 inches

Northwest Terr.

Just about anything you do outdoors in the Northwest Territories is an Adventure with a capital A.

It's remote. It's rugged. It's big. It's harsh. Its topography includes everything from mountains to barren lands to massive waterways and lakes. And sometimes it can be unforgiving.

And you could ride a snowmobile just about anywhere. Your only limitations are the size of your gas tank and what kind of supplies you can carry.

Snowmachining in the Northwest Territories isn't quite up to the recreational status it is in most of the rest of Canada. Most folks who live in this vast 452,480-square-mile chunk of real estate (Texas has 268,580 square miles) still use their snowmachines as a necessary mode of transportation and a means to hunt and fish for food.

What? Use a snowmachine for recreation?

Oh, yea.

Do we even need to talk about sharing all that snow and land with others? There are 43,439 people (compared to 50,000 musk ox or 700,000 barren land caribou or 15,000 polar bears or 26,000 moose) living in the NWT.

Even though the territory is pretty much wide open to riding, we've listed areas where there are towns nearby because that's where the services are and those are pretty good starting points for your Adventure. In fact, if you look at a map of the Northwest Territories, you'll see wide swaths of land between many of the towns we've mentioned below.

We readily admit the places we've listed aren't the only places to ride.


Northwest Territories-www.spectacularnwt.com
Great Slave Snowmobile Association-www.yktrailriders.com
Groomed Trails-None
Highest Point-Mount Nirvana (9,098 ft)
Greatest Average Annual Snowfall-Fort Simpson 67 in.
Average Yearly Snowfall For The Entire Northwest Territories-58 in.

Location Elevation Feet Snowfall Inches Groomed Trails Mi Full-Service Town Information
1)Fort Smith 666 60 none Fort Smith Fort Smith Visitor Centre 867-872-3065
2)Hay River 541 49 none Hay River Town of Hay River 867-874-6522
3)Fort Liard 699 60.3 none Fort Liard Fort Liard Visitor Information Centre 867-770-4161
4)Yellowknife 669-797 50-70 none Yellowknife Northern Frontier Visitors Association 877-881-4262
5)Western Arctic 0 to 6,561 66 none Inuvik, Fort McPherson, Tuktoyaktuk Western Arctic Regional Visitor Centre 867-777-4727



The more we learn about Yukon Territory, the more convinced we are that it may just be one of the best-kept snowmobiling secrets in Canada.

It might be tempting to say the Yukon is off the beaten path, but actually it's on the main highway-the Alaska Highway. It does take some effort to get to this northern part of Canada, though. That tends to keep the crowds to a minimum, especially in the winter.

Towering mountains-Canada's tallest peak, 19,550-foot Mt. Logan, is in the Yukon-plenty of powder, a limitless number of backcountry trails and beautiful scenery all await any adventurer.

In the Yukon, you've got the Continental Divide taking a wild ride on the east side of the territory while on the west it's the St. Elias Mountains, home to the territory's tallest peaks.

When you decide to ride in the Yukon, you have to have a plan. It's big, wide-open and has limited services in most areas of the territory. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure there are tourism services-gas, food, lodging and the like-where you're riding. Selected services are available at many of the small communities in the Yukon, but for a wider variety, you'll need to hit the territory's bigger towns, most of which are found along the Alaska Highway (crosses the territory east and west) and Klondike Highway (north and south through the territory).

Because of the remoteness of many of the riding areas, it's a good idea to check with the KSA before heading out. The KSA can give you plenty of information that can help you when making travel plans.

Location Elevation Feet Snowfall Inches Groomed Trails Mi Full-Service Town Information
1) Atlin 2,263 57-60 none Some services in Atlin, BC, and Carcross. Full services in Whitehorse Atlin Visitor Information Centre 250-651-7522, Whitehorse visitor information 867-667-3084
2) Dawson City 1,640-4,921 39-63 31 Dawson City Klondike Snowmobile Association 867-667-7680
3) Faro 2,352 44 none Faro Campbell Region Interpretive Centre 867-994-2288
4) Haines Summit 3,937-6,561 Up to 10 ft. none Haines Junction (2-hour drive) Klondike Snowmobile Association 867-667-7680 Village of Haines Junction 867-634-7100
5) Mayo 1,653 57 none Mayo Village of Mayo 867-996-2317
6) Watson Lake 2,254 77 none Watson Lake Town of Watson Lake 867-536-8000
7) Whitehorse 2,316 57 none Whitehorse City of Whitehorse 867-667-6401
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